This is one of those books that has a reputation, and one I’ve been meaning to read for a while. It was originally published in the 16th century, partly based on the author’s observations of the various wars to control the city-states that made up Italy at the time.
Unlike the chivalric code, as espoused by Charlemagne, Machiavelli exposed a world in which acts of barbarism were encouraged in order to take and maintain control of a state. At the time, his words were supposedly met with uproar (despite the book not being published until after his death).
This is the book that led to the term ‘Machiavellian’ entering our lexicon, describing practices that are deceitful, devious and brutal. It’s certainly not about noble traditions or knightly conduct. This is about clawing your way to the top and fighting off all-comers looking to take what you have.
I found it hard going, largely because it the subject is quite dry and, frankly, I found few parallels to my life. You can certainly see its influence in a lot of modern-day political dramas and I can understand why many of Europe’s leaders are thought to have read it.
I guess it was nice to reaffirm my views on how the ‘upper’ classes got where they are. It wasn’t down to Godly decree, it was ruthlessness, plus some luck.
This was another LibriVox recording. The nice part is there were a few versions to choose from. I opted for version 4, recorded by Clive Catterall. It has excellent production quality and Clive does a good job reading it in a clear voice. He seems perfect for this sort of material. Not sure how he’d fair with more engaging material.
The good news is it’s short. While it was an interesting insight into a particular period of history, I didn’t find much else to hold me.